Parents, friends and the entire community are invited to help Sequim’s youngsters be ready for the start of the school year — starting this week.
Organizers of the annual Back to School Fair are hosting a “Stuff the Bus” event for 1-5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, outside the main entrance of the Sequim Walmart, 1110 W. Washington St. There, they’ll hand out bags and a list of school supplies. Customers can shop for those needed items and put them in the bags supplied by the Sequim Food Bank, and drop them off with Boys & Girls Club volunteers to help fill an on-site bus.
Items collected at the “Stuff the Bus,” along with hundreds of other items donated by (or bought with funds from) local community groups will be distributed to students entering Sequim schools at the Back to School Fair, scheduled for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St.
The Back to School Fair started more than 10 years ago as a partnership with the Sequim School District, United Way and Parenting Matters, and is designed to reach students in all grades.
Organizers are expecting to help about 600 students be ready with supplies when the 2023-24 school year starts on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“This helps a lot of our community members and helps [students] get ready for the school year,” said Eric Mahnerd, a Back to School Fair committee member.
“It’s been very successful event [in the past],” said Tessa Jackson, unit director at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club.
Upon arrival at the Boys and Girls Club, students will be asked to fill out a form with information about their school and what grade they are attending. Then they’ll pick out a backpack. While their supplies are being put together, attendees will have time to visit the vendors and eat lunch (youths eat for free, adults by donation). As they leave the building, they will be given their school supplies. There is no cost for any of the supplies.
A number of vendors will be on site, handing out information and services about topics such as dental and vision care, Scouting, early years learning, Boys & Girls Club activities, police and fire department information, school district information and more.
Immunizations will be offered on site as well as free car seat checks. Vouchers for physicals will be available, and the Olympic Peninsula Healthy Community Coalition will have their “smoothie bike” at the fair.
There will be 300 pair of girls sneakers to distribute, too.
Parents and students can arrive early, but organizers note that those who come later won’t have lines and that “everyone still gets what they need.”
Apart from the fair, Jackson said that students items that the club runs out of include permanent markers, highlighters and backpacks for younger ones and pens for high school-aged students.
The fair is once again backed by a number of sponsors, including Castell Insurance. The company at 426 E. Washington St. hosts a shred event starting at 8 a.m. that Saturday (Aug. 26), with funds going to the Boys & Girls Club and fair. Last year’s shred event raised more than $3,000 for the fair, event organizers said.
The Sequim Association of Realtors raised more than $2,000 for the fair, and the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club donated $1,000 for the purchase of backpacks, organizers said. Other key contributors include Walmart, Kiwanis Club, Sequim Masonic Lodge, KONP, Sound Community Bank, Bekkevar Logging & Trucking and Sequim Prairie Grange, along with numerous individuals.
Mahnerd noted that the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club has been a long-time partner with the Boys & Girls Club, lending a hand with painting, remodeling and construction. He said he was happy to help stuff hundreds of bags at the fair when asked by Mary Budke, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, and resource development director Janet Gray, a few years ago.
“I had no idea; I didn’t realize the scope and what a great benefit [this is] for the community,” Mahnerd said.
Jackson said the club looks to help Sequim youths with more than just school supplies: club staff keep an eye out for youngsters who are struggling with a lack of resources (clothes, shoes) as well as their mental health.
“We’ll help in any manner that we possibly can,” Jackson said.